The Quest to Run a Sub-4 Minute Mile at Age 40
Famiglietti’s attempt to run within four seconds of his Mile PR... feels like act of defiance.
By Martin Fritz Huber, Outside Magazine
I used to think that turning 40 was something that only happened to other people. Now that I’m in my mid-30s, I’m starting to steel myself for the inevitable. Not that I’ll be investing in an obscene sports car, or anything like that. The economics of online publishing being what they are, I’ll probably have to find a less ostentatious way to cling to my vanishing youth. Worst case, I’ll start using Snapchat.
Anthony Famiglietti has loftier ambitions. After the two-time Olympic steeplechaser turns 40 this November, he wants to become the fourth man in history to run a sub-4 minute Mile after hitting the big 4-0. (If he can secure the funding, he intends to make a documentary about it called "Age Defiant", which will also feature other athletes who maintained elite-level performances well into their 40s and beyond.) Famiglietti’s moonshot Mile is perhaps an unusual way to confront the beast of senescence, but it makes a crazy kind of sense. When you’ve spent more than half your life constructing your identity around the fact that you can run faster than 99.99 percent of the world’s population, it’s not easy to let go.
“As an elite athlete you have to come to terms, on a much deeper level, with the slow degradation of your ability,” Famiglietti says. “When you see that number, 40, the mid-life crisis, the waking up at night stuff starts to creep in. You take an inventory of what you’ve achieved and what you haven’t.”
And Famiglietti’s inventory of running accomplishments is nothing to scoff at. In addition to making two U.S. Olympic teams (2004, 2008), he was a dominant presence on the New York City road running scene in the mid-aughts, honing his ability by churning out endless loops in Central Park. According to the IAAF all-time list, Famiglietti’s Mile PR (3:55.71, set in 2006) makes him the 388th fastest man in history over the distance. With his 40th birthday looming, Famiglietti wants to substitute that small piece of running immortality for a larger chunk.
“There are seven billion people, but only a thousand and change have ever run a sub-4 minute Mile—that’s astonishing. And only three, after 40, have ever gone under four,” Famiglietti says.
The three runners who belong in that exclusive latter group are Bernard Lagat, Eamonn Coghlan and Anthony Whiteman. It’s worth noting that these Olympians were all 1500 meter specialists at one point in their careers.
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